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Post-Olympic Break Primer – Metropolitan Division

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Eastern Conference 2.23.14

In order to get you ready for the final third(ish) of the season, we gathered together some of the best and the brightest around the hockey-blogging world to get their thoughts on the remaining portion of the season. They address their team's play prior to the Olympic-break, possible activity at the trade deadline (March 5), and predictions for the playoffs.

The Pacific, Atlantic, and Central Divisions were covered earlier. Our last division is everyone's favorite ridiculously named division, the Metropolitan.

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Pittsburgh Penguins (40-15-3, 83 pts.)

By: Brian Metzer, From The Point and host of Penguins Live at 5:00 p.m. EST on Penguins Radio 24/7

Pre-Break MVP: Marc-Andre Fleury. He's bounced back from a horrific Stanley Cup Playoffs performance and has been the backbone of an injury riddled team. He's leading the league in victories and could finish with career highs in all categories.

Pre-Break LVP: Chuck Kobasew. He has had injury issues, but he really hasn't done much to warrant inclusion on this roster. While he doesn't have to go out and score 20 goals, it would seem that the team anticipated more than two in 30 games this season.

Pre-Break Team Grade: B (Met Expectations). The Penguins are built to own the regular season, which they are well on their way to doing again. They have the third highest point total in the league and lead the Eastern Conference by five points. This is and what was expected from them.

At the trade deadline, the Penguins will ... be buyers only.

What do the Penguins need to buy at the deadline? The Penguins need a top line right wing to skate with Sidney Crosby and some extra punch on their third line. They may also be in the market for the defenseman based on the conditions of Paul Martin and Kris Letang.

What are the Penguins willing to give up to get what they need? The popular name that gets mentioned is Simon Despres, but moving a defenseman is now not as clear cut based on the injuries mentioned above. One would assume their first round pick would be in play in the right deal.

At the end of the regular season, the Penguins will end up ... safely in a playoff spot.
Top 3 of Division or Wildcard? Top 3
When will the Penguins season end? In the Eastern Conference finals.

Which EC team do the Penguins NOT want to play in the playoffs? While the New Jersey Devils immediately pop to mind, it has to be the Boston Bruins. The Bruins have a knack of frustrating and defensively smothering the Penguins. Exhibit A -- holding the Penguins to two goals in four games in last season's ECF.

Western Conference Champ: Anaheim Ducks
Eastern Conference Champ: Boston Bruins
Stanley Cup Winner: Anaheim Ducks

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New York Rangers (32-24-3, 67 pts.)

By: Dave Shapiro, Blue Seat Blogs

Pre-Break MVP: My initial thought here was Ryan McDonagh, but I have to go with Mats Zuccarello. Zucc is currently the team's leading scorer, both overall and on the powerplay. He has been the most consistent skater over the first 50 games.

Pre-Break LVP: Of players still with the team (MDZ/Pyatt don't count), I'd go with Dan Girardi as the LVP. He's had the most trouble adjusting to AV's style of play. He's been much better lately, but his first half play left a lot to be desired.

Pre-Break Team Grade: B (Met Expectations). I expected this team to struggle out of the gate, but I didn't expect them to need 35 games to really adjust to a drastically different style of play. They bowled over their January opponents though, so it seems everything is finally clicking.

At the trade deadline, the Rangers will ... be buyers only.

What do the Rangers need to buy at the deadline? The Rangers need some scoring depth, preferably a top-six RW, and a depth defenseman that is more capable than Justin Falk. I don't think they need to move roster players to fill their remaining holes either.

What are the Rangers willing to give up to get what they need? If the return is a pure rental, then I'd expect the Rangers will give up a middle-tier prospect and/or a pick as high as 2nd. Otherwise, I think they can afford to give up 1 of their better prospects, but I think they hold on to their 1st.

At the end of the regular season, the Rangers will end up ... safely in a playoff spot.
Top 3 of Division or Wildcard? Top 3
When will the Rangers season end? Eliminated in Stanley Cup Final

Which EC team do the Rangers NOT want to play in the playoffs? The Bruins are the only team that scare me, since they have incredible depth, talent, defense, and goaltending. The Penguins are still a Fleury meltdown away from an early exit.

Western Conference Champ: Chicago Blackhawks
Eastern Conference Champ: New York Rangers
Stanley Cup Winner: Chicago Blackhawks

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Philadelphia Flyers (30-23-6, 66 pts.)

By: Collin Mehalick, Broad Street Hockey

Pre-Break MVP: There's really only two sound choices for the Flyers' pre-Olympic Break MVP: Claude Giroux or Steve Mason. I'll take Giroux's one month of .47 PPG and three months of 1.14 PPG over Mason's Oct-Nov of .930 and Dec-Jan of .893 any day.

Pre-Break LVP: Vincent Lecavalier has had a train wreck of a season; he's just killing the team at even-strength. Craig Berube and the coaching staff have been gutting the lines to try and find a suitable spot for him, to no avail.

Pre-Break Team Grade: C (Not good, not terrible). Through 59 games, the Philadelphia Flyers are exactly who we though they would be: a below-average possession team that struggles to drive play at even-strength. After a hideous 1-7-0 start, the team's play has been just okay enough to squeak them back into a playoff spot.

At the trade deadline, the Flyers will ... do nothing. The team went 5-2-0 in the two weeks before the Olympic break. Management may be content with crossing their fingers and hoping this roster can squeak into the playoffs as-is. They'll address the team's biggest concerns in the offseason.

At the end of the regular season, the Flyers will end up ... on the playoff bubble.

What do the Flyers need to do to make the post-season? In order to make the playoffs, the Flyers will need above-average even-strength goaltending from Steve Mason and Ray Emery, and one of the league's best penalty kill (via shot suppression) will need to continue their same level of play.

Say the Flyers do make the playoffs, when does their season end? Eliminated in quarterfinals.

Which EC team do the Flyers NOT want to play in the playoffs? Can I say every single team except Toronto? Because a first round match-up against any other playoff team in the Eastern Conference is not going to end well for the Flyers.

Western Conference Champ: St. Louis Blues
Eastern Conference Champ: Boston Bruins
Stanley Cup Winner: St. Louis Blues

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Columbus Blue Jackets (29-24-5, 63 pts.)

By: Rick Gethin, Fox Sports Ohio

Pre-Break MVP: Ryan Johansen has had a breakout season and is developing into an effective power-forward. He's been on fire offensively, yet plays a good two-way game. In his last 5 games, he's 5-3-8, +8. He has an economy of motion that makes it look effortless.

Pre-Break LVP: Marian Gaborik has only played 18 games this season due to various injuries, going 5-7-12 over that span. His last full season was 2011/12, going 41-35-76. He still has much to offer, if he can stay healthy. He's got 24 games left to "step-up".

Pre-Break Team Grade: B (Met Expectations). Since January 1, they have a record of 12-5-1. The 8 game winning streak in January set a franchise record and they're playing within their identity as a hard-working team and earning respect from other teams as a tough team to play against.

At the trade deadline, the Blue Jackets will ... buyers only.

What do the Blue Jackets need to buy at the deadline? With D Fedor Tyutin out for 2-3 weeks with an ankle injury suffered at the Olympics, there is a very real need for a shutdown-defenseman.

What are the Blue Jackets willing to give up to get what they need? With Marian Gaborik, Blake Comeau and Jared Boll returning to the line-up from injury, there is a glut of forwards. I could see GM Jarmo Kekalainen making a 3-for-1 trade like he did last season.

At the end of the regular season, the Blue Jackets will end up ... safely in a playoff spot.
Top 3 of Division or Wildcard? Top 3
When will the Blue Jackets season end? Eliminated in the semi-finals

Which EC team do the Blue Jackets NOT want to play in the playoffs? Pittsburgh. They've had the Blue Jackets number all season. Columbus, in a 7 game series, can be very competitive with any other team in the conference.

Western Conference Champ: St. Louis Blues
Eastern Conference Champ: Boston Bruins
Stanley Cup Winner: St. Louis Blues

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Washington Capitals (27-23-9, 63 pts.)

By: Becca Henschel, Japers' Rink

Pre-Break MVP: Alex Ovechkin. He's added unpredictability to his game that makes him dangerous. And the number of times he's basically carried the team to a win this season (including several last-minute, game-tying goals) is pretty amazing.

Pre-Break LVP: Pains me to say it, but Brooks Laich. $4.5 mil is a lot to pay for a guy who has struggled to put up points when he's healthy... which hasn't been often.

Pre-Break Team Grade: C (Not good, not terrible). Coming into this season the Caps looked a lot better on paper than they've been in reality. That said, the defense looked questionable and has played out exactly that way (if not worse, thanks to injuries). And yet they're still in the playoff mix, so...success?

At the trade deadline, the Capitals will ... do nothing. Always a chance George McPhee makes a big splash (wouldn't be the first time) and the Caps have needs, but it'll take more than a deadline rental to bump them up the ladder. That said, if GMGM starts to feel the heat, things could get interesting...

At the end of the regular season, the Capitals will end up ... on the playoff bubble.

What do the Capitals need to do to make the post-season? The biggest issue with this team so far this year has been the mistakes - bad turnovers, poor reads, ill-timed penalties, giving up goals immediately after scoring. If they could eliminate/reduce those things, they would actually be a decent team.

Say the Capitals do make the playoffs, when does their season end? Eliminated in the quarterfinals.

Which EC team do the Capitals NOT want to play in the playoffs? Easy answer is Pens or Rangers, because really, enough already. Dark horse might be Ottawa, as unlikely a matchup as that is - for some reason the Sens have given the Caps fits in recent years (and games between the two have been staggeringly dull).

Western Conference Champ: St. Louis Blues
Eastern Conference Champ: Boston Bruins
Stanley Cup Winner: St. Louis Blues

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Carolina Hurricanes (26-22-9, 61 pts.)

By: Bob Wage, Canes Country

Pre-Break MVP: Andrej Sekera - He has been the team's most consistent player, has career best numbers this season, and has performed above anyone's expectations.

Pre-Break LVP: Cam Ward - Injuries aside, he has the fewest wins, the highest goals allowed average, and worst save percentage of any of the Carolina goalies this year. His bloated contract could inhibit the ability of the team to re-sign Anton Khudobin.

Pre-Break Team Grade: D (Below Expectations). The team defines the word, "inconsistent". They look like world beaters one period, but seem to lack focus the next. This is no longer a budget team. For the most part, the highest paid players are not living up to their contracts.

At the trade deadline, the Hurricanes will ... be buyers and sellers.

What do the Hurricanes need to buy at the deadline? The team mostly needs a third line center and a top six forward.

What are the Hurricanes willing to give up to get what they need? They are probably willing to give up prospects, but most likely will have to throw in draft picks, to get what they want.

What are the Hurricanes up to selling at the deadline? The team would probably like to shed some future salary, (Ward and Ruutu), and might include a couple of prospects to move them.

What do the Hurricanes want/need in return? Again, the biggest need is at third line center along with some skill and size in the top six.

At the end of the regular season, the Hurricanes will end up ... on the playoff bubble.

What do the Hurricanes need to do to make the post-season? Most importantly, they need to be more consistent and find some chemistry in their line combinations. A newcomer or two, (top six forward or third line center), could give them a needed boost.

Say the Hurricanes do make the playoffs, when does their season end? Eliminated in quarterfinals.

Which EC team do the Hurricanes NOT want to play in the playoffs? The Penguins. I think they will be one of the toughest teams to beat, plus a couple of former Hurricanes, (Jussi Jokinen and Brandon Sutter) would most likely play very well.

Western Conference Champ: St. Louis Blues
Eastern Conference Champ: Pittsburgh Penguins
Stanley Cup Winner: St. Louis Blues

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New Jersey Devils (24-22-13, 61 pts.)

By: John Fischer, In Lou We Trust

Pre-Break MVP: Jaromir Jagr has been the Devils' most valuable player. He's their leader in assists, goals, shots on net, and 5-on-5 Corsi percentage. He produces for a team that needs it; he's strong on possession for a team that lives by it.

Pre-Break LVP: Bryce Salvador. He's slow, he provides nothing on offense, he isn't good on defense, and he's near the bottom of the team in 5-on-5 Corsi percentage. Why does he keep getting minutes? He's got an near-unmovable contract and he's the team captain.

Pre-Break Team Grade: C (Not good, not terrible). I expected the Devils to struggle to score goals and they would be riding a knife's edge for the playoffs. That's happened. There's a good team here if only because they're great in possession. But they have yet to get the results good teams get. That can still happen - but it has to happen now.

At the trade deadline, the Devils will ... be buyers and sellers.

What do the Devils need to buy at the deadline? The Devils need offensive help. They're the league's worst at generating shots and limited in goal scoring. The team could use the most help at left wing, but either side could work; they're mostly set at center.

What are the Devils willing to give up to get what they need? New Jersey has a plethora of experienced and prospective defensemen. While it would be great to move an older defender with an ugly contract, I could see them moving a younger defender to get the help they need up front.

What are the Devils up to selling at the deadline? Defenders should be at the top of the list. Not all of Adam Larsson, Eric Gelinas, Jon Merrill, Damon Severson, Steve Santini, and Reece Scarlett will make it. So if the Devils need to give up value to get it, expect it to be someone in this group.

What do the Devils want/need in return? Wingers and/or younger scoring forwards. The Devils need offensive help now and their system is severely lacking in offensive forwards. If the Devils make any moves, it should be to address this need.

At the end of the regular season, the Devils will end up ... on the playoff bubble.

What do the Devils need to do to make the post-season? They need to score more goals (winning a shootout or two would be grand) and start stringing wins together, especially against other Metropolitan Division teams. The Devils have yet to have more than one 3+ game winning streak.

Say the Devils do make the playoffs, when does their season end? Eliminated in the semi-finals

Which EC team do the Devils NOT want to play in the playoffs? The Devils would have a hard time against other strong possession teams. Only the Bruins and Rangers are at or ahead of the Devils in this regard. Everyone else, I think the Devils can put up a great fight and perhaps steal a round. I'm looking at you, Pittsburgh.

Western Conference Champ: Chicago Blackhawks
Eastern Conference Champ: Boston Bruins
Stanley Cup Winner: Boston Bruins

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New York Islanders (22-30-8, 52 pts.)

By: Dominik Jansky, Lighthouse Hockey

Pre-Break MVP: John Tavares. I'm assuming this needs no explanation.

Pre-Break LVP: The goalies. All of them. Not that rational people expected much better, but the team's .892 save percentage is worst in the league and reasons 1 and 1A for them being so far from mattering this season.

Pre-Break Team Grade: D (Below Expectations). In truth the season has been an F, a miserable failure, but given our realistic expectations of the goaltending, we grade the overall result "below expectations." Last season they overcame this weakness enough to make the playoffs. This season they were without Lubomir Visnovsky for far too long.

At the trade deadline, the Islanders will ... be sellers only.

What are the Islanders up to selling at the deadline? Thomas Vanek and Andrew MacDonald, both UFAs, one who wants to sign elsewhere even for less, one who wants to stay here but not for less.

What do the Islanders want/need in return? First round picks as a matter of principle, but competent goaltending as a matter of need. Also: A drug to make Vanek come back and sign this summer.

At the end of the regular season, the Islanders will end up ... praying for the top lottery pick
If the Islanders receive the first overall pick, they should ... trade the pick.

Western Conference Champ: San Jose Sharks
Eastern Conference Champ: Boston Bruins
Stanley Cup Winner: San Jose Sharks

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